Increasing Chance of Exporting Handicrafts to Japan


Recently, Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency (Vietrade), Ministry of Industry and Trade, in collaboration with the Promotion Centre on Trade, Investment and Tourism ASEAN - Japan (AJC) held a design consultation for gift/lifestyle products for export to the Japanese market. The event helps Vietnamese handicraft businesses to improve product design ability, learn more about consumer tastes and increase opportunities to export to the Japanese market.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Do Kim Lang, Vietrade’s Deputy Director, affirmed that Japan has become an important partner of Vietnam in many fields such as politics, economics, trade investment and tourism. In recent years, Japan has been Vietnam's third largest trading partner and second largest export market. Japan is also seen as a potential market for Vietnam’s handicrafts items. Ceramics, wood and rattan furniture are the main Vietnamese handicraft exports to Japan.
In recent years, Mr Lang said, handicraft goods from Vietnam developed quite rapidly in both quantity and quality. According to statistics, export turnover of handicrafts (including ceramics, rattan, conical hats, etc) of Vietnam in 2014 reached US$759 million, of which the export turnover in Japanese market was US$122.9 million.
In particular, with a large number of trade villages, Vietnam is capable of supplying good quality products in various designs and types of goods. In the near future, export of this commodity is expected to increase further.
However, there are still a lot of Vietnamese enterprises which have not set foot into this market. Explaining that, Mr Lang said the Vietnamese handicraft industry needs to overcome weaknesses. Its design and quality does not meet the tastes of Japanese consumers. Due to outworking process, the design is not attractive and quality is uneven. In the future, to penetrate this market, Vietnamese enterprises should consider and overcome these weaknesses.
Agreeing with this view, a representative of AJC confirmed that the Japanese are very strict on the quality of the handicraft products. Products must be good from inside to outside, the top and bottom of the product must be done carefully such as elegant colours, not flashy, not too dark or too strong. One of the reasons Vietnamese goods cannot penetrate Japan is the high standards of Japanese consumers. Besides, there are a number of reasons for differences in the consumption styles, related to culture and history, that Vietnamese enterprises do not grasp. To dominate the market of Japan, Vietnam should now concentrate on producing good quality products for everyday life. Vietnamese enterprises should not implement mass production, because such products face direct competition from other countries. Rather, the enterprises must be very quick in responding to the needs of the market and ensuring timely delivery.
The Japanese market requires very high quality products, but the selling price is not significantly higher compared with other markets. Old production technology plus inactive raw materials are the reasons why Vietnamese enterprises have difficulty when entering the Japanese market.
Mr Mitsushi Yanaihara at Kuwasawa Design Academy, Japan stressed that businesses should and must invest heavily in market research and product designs. Products must be unique and bring their own identity, reflecting the culture and national traditions. Together, the companies have to build the brand for their products.
Mr Mitsushi Yanaihara also advised that the fastest way for Vietnamese enterprises to seek customers is to attend specialised fairs. However, many Vietnamese businesses attending exhibitions merely introduce their products, so they are not able to access Japanese partners. Enterprises need to get to know Japanese customers needs; how to convey the strengths of their business. Moreover, Vietnam enterprises need to be active in initiating business contacts, and need to understand Japanese language and culture to successfully contact customers to invite them to Vietnam, or have a meeting about their products.